What if your older child asks to nurse (again!)?

I have a newborn baby who is nursing well. My four-year-old son suddenly has renewed interest in nursing again. I agreed to let him try it out one time, expecting that he'd giggle and then forget the whole notion, but he has asked to try nearly every day since then. I have told him what a big boy he is and pointed out all of the things he can do that the baby cannot, yet he still seems fixated on being allowed to nurse. He self-weaned a year ago and I really don't want to reestablish our nursing relationship -- sweet and wonderful as those days were. Any suggestion on how to handle his repeat requests?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

When a new baby is born, the older sibling may revert to his "baby ways" for a while. He may talk like a baby, want extra cuddling, he may need to wear diapers, and he may want to nurse (again!) It is fairly common for older children to ask for a few tastes of their mom's milk when a new baby arrives. This can be quite a surprise to a mom who believed that nursing was no longer of interest to her older child.

Since your little guy weaned after three years of age it is very likely that he still has distinct memories of what it was like to nurse, and how he enjoyed the time spent at your breast. These very warm, fuzzy feeling make him want to be back in your arms again -- just like the new baby.

You can continue to allow your son to have a few sips at the breast. Perhaps if you don't appear too bothered by the situation he may let go of this on his own. You can also try distraction. Have a favorite activity in mind for the times he asks to nurse and after he takes a sip or two see if you can interest him in something else.

If your older son's requests to nurse are frustrating to you, it may be the right time to say goodbye to nursing your preschooler. Instead of nursing, you could offer to express a bit of milk into a cup for him to sample. And be sure to give your little guy lots of (non-nursing) cuddles to remind him just how much you love him. This can be a tough transition. As Norma Jan Bumgarner said in Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, "Our children do not get bigger all of a sudden when a new baby arrives; they just look bigger to us!" Good luck, and my best wishes in mothering!

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